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Bajrang Dal

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Bajrang Dal
Bajrang Dal logo.jpg
Logo of the Bajrang Dal
Formation8 October 1984 (37 years ago) (1984-10-08) (Uttar Pradesh)
PurposeMilitant[1] youth wing of Vishva Hindu Parishad
HeadquartersNew Delhi, India
Region served
India
Official language
Hindi
Head
Rajesh Pandey
Parent organisation
Vishva Hindu Parishad
Websitevhp.org/vhp-at-glance/youth/bajrang-dal/

The Bajrang Dal (transl. Brigade of Hanuman)[2] is a Hindu nationalist militant[1] organisation that forms the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). It is a member of the right-wing Sangh Parivar.[22] The ideology of the organisation is based on Hindutva.[23][24] It was founded on 1 October 1984 in Uttar Pradesh, and began spreading more in the 2010s throughout India,[25] although its most significant base remains the northern and central portions of the country. The group runs about 2,500 akhadas, similar to the shakhas (branches) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The name "Bajrang" is a reference to the Hindu deity Hanuman.

The Bajrang Dal's slogan is Seva, Suraksha, Sanskar or Service, Safety and Culture. Some of the main goals of the Dal is to build Ram Mandir temple at the site of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya and the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura, and also to expand the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, which are currently disputed places of worship. The Bajrang Dal opposes Muslim demographic growth,[26] Christian conversion,[27] and cow slaughter.[28]

Ideology and agenda

Bajrang Dal members protesting at St. Aloysius College, Mangaluru
Bajrang Dal members protesting at St. Aloysius College, Mangaluru

Bajrang Dal is a right-wing organisation.[29][30][31] Together with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the organisation has spoken out against Islamic terrorism in India and have announced that they will carry out awareness campaigns across the nation. They have stated that Islamic terrorists are hiding among the general population in India and mean to expose them.[32] Convener Prakash Sharma stressed that they were not targeting any particular community, but were trying to "wake up" the people of India, particularly it's youth, to the dangers of terrorism in the light of the 2002 Akshardham Temple attack perpetrated by terrorists linked to the militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba.[33][34]

Bajrang Dal shares the VHP's position against cow slaughter and has supported proposals for banning it.[35] The Gujarat branch is at the forefront of anti-beauty contest agitation. Another of its objectives is preventing Hindu-Muslim marriages.[36]

Social media presence

Bajrang Dal is active on social media. Facebook's security team has tagged it along with right wing organisations Sanatan Sanstha and Sri Ram Sena, as a potentially dangerous organisation that supports violence against minorities across India.[30][31][37] Regardless the organisation has been allowed to spread on Facebook due to political and safety considerations. Facebook has avoided acting against Bajrang Dal as it has ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and because "cracking down on Bajrang Dal might endanger both the company's business prospects and its staff in India", The Wall Street Journal newspaper wrote, reaffirming its reportage earlier this year on the subject.[38][39]

Controversies

Bajrang Dal was banned in 1992 by the Rao government following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, but the ban was revoked one year later.[25] Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the involvement of Bajrang Dal during the 1998 attacks on Christians in southeastern Gujarat where dozens of Churches and Prayer halls were burnt down by Sangh Parivar outfits.[40] According to HRW, Bajrang Dal had been involved in riots against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.[41] In April 2006, two Bajrang Dal activists were killed in Nanded in the process of bomb-making. The same group of activists was also suspected of perpetrating the 2003 Parbhani mosque blasts.[42] Those arrested told interrogators they wanted to avenge several blasts across the country.[43] New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) subsequently accused the police of a coverup in Nanded.[44] A report by the Secular Citizen's Forum and People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Nagpur claimed to have found maps of mosques at the home of one of the deceased,[45][46] on 24 August 2008 in Kanpur.[47] The VHP leader, Pravin Togadia, was arrested in April 2003 after distributing tridents to Bajrang Dal activists in Ajmer, defying a ban and prohibitory orders. He asserted that the coming Assembly polls in the Indian state of Rajasthan would be fought on the issue of tridents and attacked the ruling Indian National Congress Party for "placating" Muslims for electoral gains. He expressed satisfaction at the publicity received due to the incident.[48] The Bajrang Dal has been accused of not allowing Muslims to own land in parts of Gujarat by attacking traders who sell to Muslims, attacking Muslim homes and forcing the sale of the house or flat. This creates a ghettoisation of large cities in Gujarat, like Ahmedabad and Vadodara.[49] On several occasions, acting as "Social Police", the activists of Bajrang Dal have caught un-married couples on Valentine's Day and forced them to apply sindoor or tie rakhis against their wishes. The activists have often indulged in violence, invading gift shops and restaurants and threatening couples on Valentines Day.[50][51][52] In September 2008, a fresh wave of attacks in Karnataka were directed against the Newlife Christian churches and prayer halls by the Bajrang Dal as a protest against defaming Hindu gods and religious conversion carried on by the Newlife Missionaries. Later, convenor Mahendra Kumar was arrested even after he publicly announced that they were not responsible for the attacks after the Federal Government of India had strongly criticised the State Government. In addition, the National Commission for Minorities has also blamed them for the religious violence in the BJP-ruled states of Karnataka and Odisha.[53] However, some police reports claim that the Bajrang Dal was not involved per se and that the attacks were carried out by splinter groups. However, testimonies of their activists show exactly the opposite, as they described the attacks and openly warned of more violence.[54]

On 24 January 2009, members of Sri Ram Sene, a Bajrang Dal affiliate, attacked young men and women after dragged them out of a pub in Mangalore.[55][56][57][58] A group of 40 activists of the Sena barged into the pub "Amnesia — The Lounge" and beat up a group of young women and men, claiming the women were violating traditional Indian values. Two of the women were hospitalized. The video of the incident has become one of the most watched clips on YouTube, though how the TV crew happened to be ready at the 'unannounced' attack is not known.[59]

Starting 14 February 2011, there was a fresh wave of violence directed at people celebrating Valentine's Day in Kanpur city, in the province of Uttar Pradesh. "Offenders", so called, are forced to hold their ears and do sit-ups as punishment for being caught celebrating the "Western holiday". Police were called in to calm the sectarian violence and discrimination.[60]

On 2 November 2014, during the Kiss of Love protest against moral policing, members of Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and many other right wing groups opposed and attacked protestors and threatened to strip protestors for kissing on the streets. These opposing groups claimed that public display of affection is against both Indian culture and the law of the land (under section 294 of the Indian Penal Code), though according to the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, kissing in public is not a criminal offence.[61][62] Police took many of the Kiss of Love protestors into custody to save their lives, but were blamed for giving a free hand to counter protestors of the right wing groups.[63]

From 2015, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been accused of promoting and indulging in Cow vigilantism, apparently targeting Muslims and lower caste Hindus, mostly Dalits. Human rights groups have slammed several state Governments for promoting and supporting such acts, even turning a blind eye. Police officers have been threatened by members of cow protection groups for intervening in such cases or arresting cow vigilantes.[64] Following the Una Flogging incident in Gujarat, where 4 dalits were brutally thrashed by Bajrang Dal goons and vigilantes when they were skinning dead cow carcasses, the victims have converted to Buddhism, which irked some perpetrators.[65][66]

In October 2020, in the aftermath of the Hathras rape and murder, ex BJP MLA Rajveer Singh Pehelwan held a protest rally to support the accused who belong to the upper caste Thakur community. Members of Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Karni Sena also attended the protest.

Following the introduction of Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 in Uttar Pradesh to curb Love Jihad, Bajrang Dal, acting as a parallel police force, has been condemned for stopping consensual inter-religious and inter-caste marriages.[67][68] Bajrang Dal has also been slammed for supporting patriarchy and called for restricting freedom of women, particularly to the point of when they choose their partners out of caste and religion.[69]

Days before Christmas, on 5 December 2020, Bajrang Dal leader Mithu Nath openly threatened and warned of beating Hindus for visiting Churches in Assam's Barak Valley. Following this, a case was filed against him by the Cachar district Deputy Commissioner of Police.[70]

Reception

The United States Department of State's annual report on international religious freedom for 2000 and World Report (2000) by the Human Rights Watch labelled this organisation as a Hindu extremist group.[71][72] Paul R. Brass, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington, described the Bajrang Dal as Indian equivalent of Nazi Germany's Sturmabteilung.[73]

Bajrang Dal has also received criticism from other Hindu nationalist organisations such as the Hindu Mahasabha. Bajrang Dal has been criticised for adopting the same violent methods as the Islamic fundamentalists in their attempt to curb the spread of Islamic terrorism, a move deemed by the Mahasabha to be counterproductive.[74] In addition, the Bharatiya Janata Party member and former prime minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee have also come out in criticism of Bajrang Dal. Vajpayee said that the Bajrang Dal "only embarrassed the BJP" and urged the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to "rein them in".[75] After the religious violence in Odisha, the Bharatiya Janata Party Prime Ministerial candidate L. K. Advani advised the Bajrang Dal to cease association with violence, concerned with the fact that it took pressure off the UPA government in Delhi.[76]

The US Central Intelligence Agency classified the Bajrang Dal and the VHP as religious militant organisations in the "India" entry of The World Factbook on 4 June 2018,[77][78] but removed the mentions of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP from the entry by 25 June 2018.[79]

Demand for ban

Though there were no demands for ban till recently,[when?] there is a lot of demand for a ban from the ruling Congress which is accused by the opposition of minority appeasement, and also from different minority groups including the government owned National Commission for Minorities (NCM). However, the ruling government decided not to impose a ban due to a fear of lack of evidence.[80] In addition, India's National Security Advisor also suggested that a ban on Bajrang Dal is not sustainable.[81]

In September 2008, the Indian National Congress (INC) demanded a ban on the Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) which according to the INC are involved in anti-national activities. Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said "White paper should be brought out not only against SIMI "(Students Islamic Movement of India)" but all organisations involved in anti-national activities like Bajrang Dal and VHP".[82] Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said, "Those outfits involved in terrorist activity should be investigated, the question is why Bajrang Dal should not be banned".[83] Muslim cleric Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli, who is involved in the "Movement Against Terrorism", also demanded a ban on this organisation in the wake of the Kanpur blast.[84]

The monthly magazine Communalism Combat started by civil rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand demanded an immediate ban on the Bajrang Dal in August 2008.[85]

Leader of the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) Ramchandra Paswan describing the Bajrang Dal as communal organisation said, "Bajrang Dal and VHP should immediately be banned."[86]

The Indian National Congress, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, former prime minister H. D. Deve Gowda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati have demanded a ban on Bajrang Dal and Sri Rama Sena. In this regard, Deve Gowda sent a letter to prime minister and accused Bajrang Dal "for perpetrating senseless violence" against minorities in Karnataka and Odisha.[87][88][89]

On 5 October 2008, the NCM recommended a ban on the Bajrang Dal and VHP for its alleged role in the attacks on Christian institutions in Karnataka.[90] However, the ruling state government has[91] the Minority commission's recommendations and does not support this suggestion.

On 5 October 2008, the Indian Prime Minister called a special cabinet meeting to discuss a possible ban on the Bajrang Dal and the VHP over the continuing attacks on Christians and Christian institutions in Odisha and Karnataka.[92]

Bajrang Dal, and its Odisha president Pratap Chandra Sarangi have been alleged to have links with the Graham Staines murder case. However, no proof has been established for the allegations.[93]

List of presidents

S. No. Name Term
1. Vinay Katiyar
2. Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya
3. Suresh Jain
4. Prakash Sharma
5. Subash Chouhan
6. Rajesh Pandey

See also

References

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Further reading

External links